COVID-19 Response from Vestavia Hills UMC
It has been our intent to not be early adopters as we have coped in all of our ministries with the COVID-19 crisis. But with the sustained drop in community spread, positivity rates, school system quarantines, and hospitalizations, the Board of Trustees feels that a relaxation of our masking requests, and in some ministries – requirements, is appropriate.
Effective Monday, October 18
- Masking will be left to the discretion of adults, employees and parents of children for all ministry areas, with the exception of Vestavia Day School.
- Vestavia Day School (Six weeks-old to K4) is regulated by the Jefferson County Health Department and will continue to mask indoors for employees and follow its recommendations as closely as possible. The After-School Program (K5 to 5th Grade) will experiment with not-requiring masking of children, at the discretion of parents, for a two week period and re-evaluate in early November.
- To enable Christmas Eve Services to be kept indoors, we will likely require masking for that event because of the size of crowds, and the length of time spent indoors in the same space.
Because of the ongoing and changing nature of the battle against COVID, there may come a time when we have to return to more defensive measures.
Thank you for your patience and cooperation. We recognize that everyone is at a different place in our life situations and comfort levels, but these strategies seem appropriate at this moment.
Effective September 8, 2021
The Vestavia School Board recently changed its policy to require the use of face masks in all school buildings effective September 1, 2021. Currently, Vestavia Methodist only requires masks for children’s programming in preschool to 5th grade, and for the adults who care for them.
To reduce confusion and help older students reduce the number of close contact exposures, the Board of Trustees will require the use of face masks at all Thrive Student Ministries indoor events (including Sunday school, Thrive at Five, Wednesday Prayer Breakfast / groups, retreats, etc.) – for both students and those adults assisting them effective September 8, 2021. Masking had previously been required for all student ministry bus transports, but it will now be extended more broadly.
We are very grateful for our member’s cooperation in wearing masks for worship services and adult events. We recognize that using a face mask is not a cure-all, but it has helped reduce spread and exposures at our many events and programs. We continue to strongly encourage and urge the use of masks for all indoor events for everyone. This virus is affecting young children a great deal, and they do not have the option of a vaccine. So thank you for helping our children and those with compromised immunity reduce their risk of exposure while they benefit from in-person education and training.
Updated August 11, 2021
The rise of the Delta Variant of COVID-19 has a history of hitting “pockets” of populations quickly and furiously. Currently, North Alabama is starting to see the surge, but South Alabama has been engulfed in it for several weeks, and modeling indicates that it will continue to migrate north. The populations at risk with this round are children and unvaccinated persons, and quite a few younger adults.
All of our major gathering spaces (Sanctuary, Tyson Hall, Fellowship Hall, the Chapel, and all rooms in the Lighthouse building) have the same air purification systems as ICU units. These were added last year and stops the recycling of contaminated air. So unless these spaces are filled to capacity, we feel that they are relatively safe in normal worship situations. Small classrooms (except in the Lighthouse building) do not have these systems.
Vestavia Methodist is attempting to run all of our programming but are making a few adjustments to improve safety. The Board of Trustees is ultimately responsible for how our facility is used, and the following changes are being implemented by them immediately, to be reviewed monthly starting on September 15, or earlier if the situation changes.
Church Services and Small Groups
The CDC, the pastoral staff, and the church lay leadership, strongly request and encourage the use of masks indoors, even for vaccinated persons. Though masks are not a cure-all, they can help stop a cough or sneeze from going as far. While masking is not a requirement, we ask everyone to make this sacrifice out of love of those who are immunocompromised and families with small children. All clergy and staff will be masked during all Sunday and Wednesday activities, except when eating.
If your Sunday School space feels tight with the number of persons attending, we can re-visit moving to a different room. Also, any group may choose to use equipment allowing “hybrid” classes using Zoom or another similar software by emailing email@example.com. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to look at other, limited, room/space options, or to set your room by social distancing guidelines. If a class discovers that someone in the class had an unknown infection and suspects that others were potentially exposed, the class should contact everyone present that day. The CDC then advises that persons wear a mask while around others, be tested after the third day, and then quarantine if the test is positive.
Children and youth classes and small groups will continue masking at their parent’s discretion. Please share with the leader of your child’s group to express your wishes. All greeters, staff, and volunteers who are caring for children 5th grade and under must be masked while caring for children in the children’s building.
Masks will be required on any bus, including for Wednesday Prayer Breakfast.
Church / Office Staff
Staff are encouraged to use masks when appropriate distancing can not be achieved. On Sundays, Wednesday evenings, and when social distancing is not possible, masks will be required for church staff.
Vestavia Day School
Children six weeks to k-5 follow the policies of DHR. DHR requires children stay in “pods” (a group of children who stay together all day not mingling with children from other classes while indoors). Teachers will not have to stay with a single pod.
Teachers will use masks at all times.
Children will remain in pods, even though this will require a reduction of operating hours until the tight labor market eases and additional staff can be hired.
After School Program
Because public schools are not requiring masks, it is our hope that we can avoid quarantining as much as possible. To achieve this, we will require masks of all children and staff. We will only quarantine a pod if more than one child is diagnosed with in 48 hours, hinting that the exposure was on our property and was not from community spread.
Vestavia Dance and Conservatory of the Arts
Teachers and students will be masked unless sufficient social distancing can be achieved.
If anyone is not feeling well, even just a few sniffles, please stay home for a few days and/or see a doctor. Many vaccinated persons with a “break-through” case are showing very minor symptoms, but with the new variant, can be highly contagious.
We recognize that everyone is at different places emotionally and in their understanding of how this variant works. We do not claim to have all the answers and will likely make adjustments as things evolve. Anyone who does not feel comfortable is invited to watch our Facebook Live Stream (8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. for Traditional Services, and 11 a.m. for Contemporary).
Thank you for your patience as we all live through this latest, and probably not last, battle in the COVID Pandemic.
Grace and Peace,
The VHUMC Board of Trustees and Pastoral Staff
August 3, 2021
The rise of the Delta Variant in the last two weeks has impacted a number of families connected to Vestavia Methodist, principally children in our Day School, parents of those children, and some of our youth. We also had some cases among children at “Created for a Purpose” that came to light. To date, no vaccinated adults have had to be hospitalized. We have one person, unvaccinated, who is in ICU and in deep need of our prayers. It appears that vaccinated persons can be a carrier of the Delta variant, which is a change in previous variants. Prior to two weeks ago, we had had no incidents of COVID for a number of months, to our knowledge, so we are trying to deal with this quickly emerging threat.
We learned many things that worked, and many recommendations that had little effect, with the previous versions of COVID. The Delta Variant seems to have morphed causing us to struggle for how to make common-sensical responses, while not wanting to return to cancellations. The greatest threat right now seems to be to children and their families, and to unvaccinated persons. To date, our Board of Trustees and pastoral leadership have not re-instituted requirements across the board, but are preferring to deal with specific situations to mitigate risk. Here are the principles guiding us and some shifts we are making:
1. All of our major gathering spaces (Sanctuary, Tyson Hall, Fellowship Hall, and all rooms in the Lighthouse building) have the same air purification systems as ICU units. These were added last year and stops the recycling of contaminated air. Small classrooms (except in the Lighthouse building) do not have these systems. So unless these spaces are filled to capacity, we feel that they are relatively safe in normal worship situations.
2. The CDC, and church leadership, encourage the use of masks indoors, even for vaccinated persons. Though masks are not a cure-all, they can help stop a cough or sneeze from going as far. Especially in situations where there are a large number of persons in a tight space, we will ask for masking. Immediately, this includes Discovery Weekend and the 9:45 Discovery service this Sunday where there will be a large number of people close together.
3. If your Sunday School space feels tight with the number of persons attending, we can re-visit moving to a different room.
4. Our Fuel Classes will be using masks and resume social distancing. Our Day School Teachers will be required to mask, and we will not be mixing children from different classrooms so that quarantining is limited by class. Our Student Ministries and Children’s staff will continue to follow parent’s requests for masking for Sunday School and regular programming.
5. If you are not feeling well, even just a few sniffles, please stay home for a few days and/or see a doctor. Many vaccinated persons with a “break-through” case are showing very minor symptoms, but with the new variant, can be highly contagious.
We do not claim to have all the answers, but are trying to wisely manage risk. We are certainly open to ideas as we go forward. If we see additional spread, we may have to revisit these operating guidelines. Thank you for doing everything possible to keep each other safe.
Grace and Peace,
The Pastoral Leadership Team